Archive for MotherJones

MotherJones: Meet Larry Smith, Texas’ Wannabe Anti-Shariah Sheriff

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by loonwatch

Meet Larry Smith, Texas’ Wannabe Anti-Shariah Sheriff

By Adam Serwer (MotherJones)

Muslim religious law isn’t coming to the Lone Star State. But one Republican is on the lookout anyway.

Larry Smith, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent running for sheriff in Smith County, Texas, has a unique plank in his platform: He has pledged to protect this deep-red border county from the creeping menace of Islamic religious law, or Shariah.

Outside of science fiction, this Texas county—which voted for John McCain at a 70 percent clip—doesn’t seem the most likely place for an Islamist takeover. After all, creeping Shariah is mostly a myth. The issue might come up in civil cases if both parties to a contract have accepted an agreement based on religious law, but the Constitution bars religious law from superseding civil law.

Despite his out-there Shariah stance, Smith has earned the endorsement of the county’s local paper. And local Democrats aren’t even fielding a candidate in the sheriff’s race. That means next Tuesday’s Republican primary—which includes four candidates for the county’s top law enforcement post—will likely decide whether Smith County’s next sheriff devotes time to worrying about a Shariah takeover.

Two of Smith’s rivals say Shariah shouldn’t be an issue in the race.

“We hear [about Shariah] on the national media, but here specifically in Smith County, Tyler, in the state of Texas, I’m not seeing that this is going to be a big problem,” says Chris Green, a former game warden running in the primary. “I don’t think it’s gonna occur, especially here; it may in some of the more liberal states.”

Another candidate, Bobby Gorman, Smith County’s chief sheriff’s deputy, suggested Smith was just trying to provoke a controversy over nothing. “Running for sheriff, you always want to get somebody’s attention,” Gorman says.

Anwar Khalifa, a local homebuilder, Muslim leader, and lifelong Republican who speaks with a slight drawl, says he was “shocked” when he heard about Smith’s campaign vow. Before that moment, Khalifa says, he was “actually supporting Larry.” An Egyptian immigrant who moved to Texas when he was eight, Khalifa says that Smith County is a welcoming and tolerant place, but the last few years there has been an influx of anti-Muslim speakers at local churches offering dark warnings about an Islamic takeover.

“They cloak it and say we’re only talking about radical Muslims, but they don’t differentiate,” Khalifa says. “This is anti-Islam.”

Smith’s anti-Shariah pledge seems to have helped him gain at least one endorsement, from a local tea party group called Grassroots America, We the People. The group sponsored an event at a local church hosting Brigitte Gabriel, the head of ACT! for America, an organization that sees itself as defending America from “radical Islam” and according to its website, has a chapter in Smith County. Gabriel has written that Islamic terrorists are “really just very devout followers of Muhammad.” According to Khalifa, Smith provided “security” for Gabriel’s event. (Smith did not respond to several requests for comment.)

“Anti-Muslim grassroots organizations are the vehicles by which these talking points enter the state and local dialogue. That’s why we’ve been seeing it sprout up so suddenly at the local level,” says Wajahat Ali, the lead author of Fear, Inc., a Center for American Progress report on anti-Muslim organizations. “The impetus behind it, though, is a movement that wants to exclude American Muslims from the same rights and freedoms that other Americans enjoy.”

Khalifa says that he recently spoke to Smith, who he says apologized for his anti-Shariah pledge. “[Smith] was very cordial and apologetic,” Khalifa says. But the candidate’s websitestill sports language promising Smith will use his own money to train officers so they understand “why Sharia and international law will never be acceptable substitutes” for the Constitution.

This wasn’t the first time Khalifa tried to convince a fellow Republican to soften his stance on the Shariah issue. State Rep. Leo Berman, a Republican who represents the area, introduced legislation in 2011 to ban the consideration of foreign law in Texas courts, explaining that he had heard Shariah law was being enforced in Dearborn, Michigan. (It isn’t.) When Berman was preparing his legislation, Khalifa helped convince Berman to focus on “international law” rather than only Shariah.

Berman’s legislation didn’t survive the 2012 session of the Texas Legislature, but he says he’ll introduce it again next year if reelected. Asked how he felt about Berman’s legislation, Khalifa said he was happy Shariah wasn’t being identified by name.

“It’s better than singling out my group of folks,” Khalifa says. “If people really want to hate, they’re going to hate, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. You just set an example.”

Fake Ex-Terrorist Fraudster Kamal Saleem: I Was a Terrorist…Seriously!

Posted in Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2012 by loonwatch

We’ve done several pieces on the fake ex-terrorist con that Kamal Saleem and his buddy Walid Shoebat have been pulling for years now. No matter how much evidence or facts are shown, gullible folks who so desperately want to believe Kamal’s story continue to fall for it and send him money:

I Was a Terrorist…Seriously!

by Tim Jones (MotherJones)

As Michigan state legislators considered a plan to curb illegal immigration last fall, they heard dramatic testimony from a man namedKamal Saleem. He warned the lawmakers that Islamic extremists were sneaking into the country with nefarious plans. “If we don’t pass this bill,” the fiftysomething Lebanese American told them, “we will be legalizing terrorism to be part of our culture.”

Saleem’s testimony was rooted in an extraordinary backstory: He purports to have spent half a decade recruiting Islamists in America—before finding Christ and laying down arms. “I came to the United States of America not to love you all,” he declared at a rally on the Capitol steps after the hearing. “I came to…destroy this country as a terrorist.”

Over the last five years, Saleem’s tale of terror and redemption has made him a minor celebrity among Christian conservatives. Part national-security wonk, part evangelist, he is one of a handful of self-described “ex-terrorists” who have emerged in the post-9/11 era to share their experiences. He has spoken in state capitols, at the Air Force Academy, and at colleges and churches around the country. He has been a guest on Pat Robertson’s 700 Cluband started his own nonprofit, Koome Ministries, of which he was the only full-time employee in 2009. Tax records show Saleem earned $48,000 from the ministry that year—and had a $39,000 expense account—while Koome took in nearly $100,000 in donations and grants.

According to his memoir, The Blood of Lambs, Saleem, who grew up in Lebanon, broke into the terror biz at the age of seven by running weapons—strapped onto sheep—for Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat (who kissed his forehead at a public ceremony, “his breath bearing tales of garlic and onion”). As a teenager, he helped run a terrorist camp in the Libyan desert at the behest of Moammar Qaddafi. He visited Iraq, where he rubbed shoulders with Saddam Hussein. In the late 1970s, he traveled to Afghanistan, working alongside the mujahideen and CIA spooks to beat back the Soviets. A Kansas City Star columnist skeptically dubbed him the “Forrest Gump of the Middle East.

Saleem claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has put a $25 million bounty on his head, and that there have been attempts to earn it: After a 2007 event in Chino Hills, California, he writes in his book, he returned to his Holiday Inn to find his room ransacked and a band of dangerous Middle Easterners on his trail. Saleem describes calling the police to alert them to an assassination attempt. Local law enforcement, however, has no record of any such incident.

That’s just one of many of Saleem’s tales that don’t stand up to scrutiny. (Through a spokeswoman, Saleem refused to comment for this story.) Doug Howard, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Michigan’s Calvin College, first encountered Saleem in 2007, when he was invited to speak at the school. Howard quickly became suspicious: For starters, Saleem claimed to be a descendant of the “Grand Wazir of Islam,” a position that doesn’t exist. Howard dug deeper and discovered that Saleem’s original name was Khodor Shami—and that for more than a decade before outing himself as a former terrorist he had worked for Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. (CBN declined to comment. Focus on the Family confirmed Saleem was an employee but would not comment further.)

A former friend also sheds light on Saleem’s past. Wally Winter, a nurse in Albuquerque, New Mexico, first met him when they both worked at a hospital in Abu Dhabi in 1979. Two years later, he got a phone call from Saleem; he’d come to the United States and needed help. Winter says he welcomed Saleem into his spare bedroom, opened a bank account for him, taught him how to drive, and helped get him a job at the hospital where he worked near Oklahoma City. When Winter moved to the city, Saleem came along. “He had no money,” Winter says. “I had to drive him wherever he was going.” The two were close; Winter would bring Saleem to his parents’ home on holidays.

Winter recalls his former roommate as a devout Muslim whose yarns often lapsed into wild exaggeration. “He could sell swampland in Louisiana,” Winter says. “I really do not believe the story about the terrorism. I totally believe that he would make up something like that to either make money or become well known.”

A cloud of doubt also hangs over Saleem’s frequent speaking partner, Walid Shoebat, another converted ex-terrorist who runs a ministry and whose books include Why I Left Jihadand Why We Want to Kill You. Shoebat has offered contradicting statements on whether he uses an assumed name. An Israeli bank he claims to have bombed in the 1970s has said it has no record of the incident; a spokesman for Shoebat says that’s probably because the attack “caused no injury and minor damage.”

Wouldn’t authorities have some interest in someone who claims to have been involved in some of the biggest Middle Eastern militant movements of the 1970s and ’80s? Saleem claims that local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have “reached out” to him to learn about “the Islamist mindset and tactics.” But Kathleen Wright, an FBI spokeswoman, says she has “no information that Kamal Saleem has spoken at an FBI-sponsored event.” She could not say definitively whether the bureau had ever been in contact with him. Winter, for his part, says he has never been questioned by authorities about his former roommate.

Ironically, this apparent lack of official scrutiny may be the strongest evidence against Saleem’s credibility. As Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, puts it, “The FBI or the Department of Homeland Security don’t let people who are terrorists into the country and not detain them just because they claim they got the Holy Ghost.”